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Biden's Demand For Background Checks Gets A Reality Check Instead

AP Photo/Michael Conroy

The odds of the Senate approving the legislation expanding background checks passed by the House earlier this year was never good. Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia had already said he wasn’t in favor, and there aren’t ten Republican votes in the Senate to pass the bills, much less eleven, which would be the magic number since Manchin’s not on board. Instead, Joe Biden has been betting that talks between GOP senators like John Cornyn of Texas and Chris Murphy of Connecticut would lead to some sort of compromise bill that could get 60 votes in favor, but the Wall Street Journal is throwing some cold water on that idea.

“Progress would probably be overstating it,” Sen. Pat Toomey, a Pennsylvania Republican who has been a key part of the discussions, said of the group’s efforts. Mr. Toomey said that while he might be able to reach a deal with Democrats, he was skeptical they could find nine other GOP votes in the evenly divided Senate. “It’s not clear to me that we get 60 at this point,” he said.

Lawmakers said the recent discussions have centered on expanding background checks to all commercial sales, the focus of 2013 legislation from Mr. Toomey and Sen. Joe Manchin (D., W.Va.). The Senate narrowly blocked that bill, which would have expanded background checks to all commercial sales, including all sales advertised online and at gun shows. Currently, the checks are needed only for sales by federally licensed dealers.

Democrats said they weren’t ready to call a halt to their efforts. Still, at some point, they will have to decide whether to bring legislation to the floor for a vote, even if it hasn’t secured enough support to pass. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D., N.Y.) has said that the chamber may hold a vote on gun legislation this month. Others involved in the talks said that could slip until later this summer as negotiations continue.

Democrats like Murphy are still claiming that a compromise agreement is “doable,” but the Republicans quoted by the Journal don’t appear to be nearly as optimistic.

“Unfortunately we’ve been unable to find an agreed-upon outcome,” Mr. Cornyn told reporters Wednesday, saying that Mr. Murphy “suggested to me that there wasn’t any real reason to continue talking right now.”

The biggest sticking point isn’t a policy detail, but the contentious political nature of any legislation touching on gun restrictions, according to a person familiar with the discussions.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.) has made clear that he views Democrats’ efforts as an encroachment on the rights of gun owners. Mr. McConnell said on the Senate floor Monday that Democrats were “opening an unprecedented new front in the Left’s war on the Second Amendment.”

The two Republican senators who seem to be most eager to reach some sort of agreement are Toomey, who’s been trying to get expanded background checks through Congress since 2013, and Sen. Lindsay Graham of South Carolina, who told the Journal that he’s in favor of requiring gun show promoters to conduct background checks on behalf of private sellers at gun shows.

According to Graham, putting the burden on promoters rather than gun owners “makes sense,” but there’s really nothing that makes sense about trying to police private sales of firearms, whether they take place at a gun show or not. Besides the fact that there’s nothing preventing gun show promoters from adopting Graham’s policy voluntarily, you just have to look at what’s going on in California to realize that it’s gun shows themselves that anti-gun activists find truly problematic.

The state Senate in Sacramento has already approved a bill that would ban gun shows from taking place at all state-owned properties, including fairgrounds, and the state Assembly could soon take up the measure and send it to Gov. Gavin Newsom for his signature. State Sen. Dave Min says it’s “morally wrong” for the state to allow gun sales on property it owns, despite the fact that California already has a universal background check law that covers all sales at gun shows.

Min said in an interview that the idea for his bill was born in 2019, when mass shootings took place on two consecutive days in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio. The day of the Dayton shooting, Aug. 4, Min ran a 5K race at the OC fairgrounds, where at the end of the race he was handed a number of promotional fliers – including one for an upcoming gun show.

He doesn’t believe property the state manages on behalf of taxpayers should be used to sell guns that in some cases get dispersed into the community, where they may contribute to gun violence and its incalculable social and financial costs, he said.

Not to digress, but it should be noted that the state of California allows alcohol to be sold at fairgrounds, even though in some cases it will lead to individuals driving home drunk, and may also exacerbate alcoholism and health issues like liver cirrhosis.

Anyway, the point is that anti-gun activists aren’t going to be satisfied with anguage that imposes background checks on private gun transfers at gun shows. We know what their agenda is, and pro-Second Amendment senators shouldn’t be providing any cover or compromise to anti-gun zealots like Joe Biden, Chuck Schumer, and Chris Murphy.

Jul 27, 2021 12:30 PM ET